THE RUNAWAY PRINCESS

A delicious princess romp down the well-worn path first paved by The Practical Princess and followed by spunky royal girls ever since. Princess Margaret—Meg—is not at all interested in being bargained away with half the kingdom. She wants to save the dragon, warn the witch and rescue the bandits, while her father wants a gaggle of princes to vanquish them all in the name of economic development. A lot of tropes get stood on their heads here: Meg is imprisoned in a tower, for example, but doesn’t take long to wriggle out of it; alert readers will catch references to everything from The Wizard of Oz to Monty Python. Meg bonds with the dragon (only a baby), gets help from the witch (who has turned a great number of princes into frogs) and, assisted by her loyal friends Cam the gardener and Dilly the housemaid, bests a supercilious prince. The bandits, by the way, are led by a woman, and her handsome brother does a pretty good impersonation of a prince. The language is witty and tart and funny, the pace is quick and, in the end, Meg gets to study not only administration and diplomacy, but magic and swordplay. (Fiction. 9-14)

Pub Date: Aug. 15, 2006

ISBN: 0-374-35546-0

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2006

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A muddled middle, with little sign of movement toward a final conflict or resolution.

THE LAST DRAGON

From the Revenge of Magic series , Vol. 2

Nightmarish visions prompt desperate gambles for young magic-wielder Fort as he continues his efforts to rescue his father from the mysterious Old Ones.

Showing no inclination to pick up the opener’s plodding pace, Riley marches his preteen spellcaster through wordy reveries and exposition, conveniently overheard conversations, and recurrent dream encounters with a foe given to ALL-CAPS bombast as one ill-starred rescue scheme gives way on the fly to others. Doing his best to shuck annoyed friends and allies who insist on saving his bacon anyway, Fort eventually finds himself in a subterranean realm facing dwarves, elves (one elf, anyway), huge monsters—and an Old One who turns out to be a dragon willing to help subdue his three repressive kindred elementals before laboriously “fathering” an egg. (Just to muddy the waters a bit more, the titular dragon turns out to be another one altogether, hiding back on Earth and remaining offstage throughout this episode.) Magic, mostly teleportation and telepathy with admixtures of mind control and the occasional exploding fireball, gets brisk workouts, but in the end, the dark is still rising. Fort seems too colorless to inspire the sort of loyalty he gets from his supporting cast, which is well stocked with firecrackers and wild cards. Again, Fort’s circle isn’t entirely white, but the default is in operation.

A muddled middle, with little sign of movement toward a final conflict or resolution. (Fantasy. 10-13)

Pub Date: Oct. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5344-2572-9

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Aladdin

Review Posted Online: June 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON

Facing sneering peers, plus a cave full of vicious young dragons and two mountainous, malign adult ones, brings an ordinary Viking lad around to becoming a “Hero the Hard Way” in this farcical import. Dispatched to capture and train some breed of dragon as a rite of passage into the Hairy Hooligan Tribe, unprepossessing Hiccup Horrendous Haddock III returns not with a mighty Gronkle, or an aptly named Monstrous Nightmare, but a shrimpy creature laughingly dubbed “Toothless”—who also turns out to be about as trainable as a cat, with an attitude to match. But Hiccup and Toothless develop into a doughty team when two humongous, fire-breathing Sea Dragons pull up to shore, looking for the odd village or army to devour. Cowell adds lots of jagged, William Steig–like sketches to a narrative rich in dragon muck, cartoon violence, and characters with names like Snotlout and Dogsbreath the Duhbrain. Her genuinely fierce, intelligent, and scary dragons nearly steal the show, but Hiccup and his diminutive sidekick ultimately come out on top, both displaying a proper hero’s mix of quick wit, courage, and loyalty. (Fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: May 1, 2004

ISBN: 0-316-73737-2

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2004

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